Which party has the edge on gender in election 2019?


The ALP is making a strong pitch to female voters in the upcoming Federal election, with Prime Ministerial hopeful, Bill Shorten, releasing the ALP's Plan for Equality last week and topping it up with his $4 billion boost for childcare on Sunday. The Liberal Party is yet to make any further announcements than the $109 million Women’s Economic Security Statement released by then Liberal Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer, in November 2018.

Women on Boards has taken a look at both sets of policies that primarily impact women in the areas of:
  • Gender balance
  • Legal empowerment
  • Economic empowerment & workforce participation
  • Violence against women
  • Supporting younger women
The ALP has 20 policies (excluding its centrepiece childcare policy) while the Liberal Party has 16. There are a couple of areas of common agreement, including:
  • A commitment to reinstating the Time Use Survey - a contemporary evidence base to measure women’s economic security.
  • Support for young women in STEM activities and programs.
  • Better measures and funding to addess violence against women.
In terms of economic empowerment, the ALP is focussed more on pay increases for workers in female dominated industries, restoring cuts to penalty rates and using the power of legislation to force companies to change their practices and behaviour, while the Liberals are focussed on better enabling workforce participation and encouraging companies to take action.

In terms of the gender pay gap, Labor has shown a curious lack of understanding of the role & work of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in saying it will "lead a national push to help close the gender pay gap by making large employers publicly report their pay gap." Any non-government organisation with more than 100 employees currently does this via the mandatory WGEA annual reporting. The Liberals have instead opted for as yet unspecified "improvements to Workplace Gender Equality Agency systems to enhance Australia’s gender equality data and reduce the cost of reporting for business". We hope the latter does not mean reducing reporting requirements.

Labor has committed to meeting its 50:50 target for representation of women on government boards within the first term of government and setting targets to boost women’s representation in senior public service roles. The 50 per cent board target was also set by former Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, but has lacked real focus so the numbers have remained at a respectable 40%.

Items that get a big tick from WOB and have been on our advocacy agenda for many years include:
  • Paying superannuation on Commonwealth funded paid parental leave (Labor).
  • Establishing a Future Female Entrepreneurs program in partnership with the private sector (Liberal).
  • Reforming the Australian Honours System to better recognise women’s contributions to our community (Labor).
  • Establishing a new framework for gender responsive policy development and decision making, including restoring the annual Women’s Budget Statement (Labor).
Things we think need a bit more thought include:
  • Legislating for 10 days paid domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards (Labor).
  • Appointing a female Governor General of Australia - only insofar as its better to set criteria that enable women to be considered for the position, ie, not just using the very small pool of mostly men in the top echelons of our military, judicial and government systems - (Labor).
There will undoubtably be more policies to follow and WOB will continue to look at these and also to reveal the numbers of female candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate.
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